Lab designs one-of-a-kind keyboard for Dubuque teen after accident

A Dubuque teen is able to play video games still, despite a January skiing accident that left her partially paralyzed with less fine motor control than before.
Published: May. 8, 2022 at 11:04 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A Dubuque teen is back in the game, thanks to a specialized piece of technology.

On Sunday morning, Lotus Friedman, 13, played one of her favorite video games. A teen playing a video game is not unusual, but for Friedman, logging on to the game was only made possible by a keyboard made to meet her specific needs.

Friedman has been hospitalized since January 18. She is paralyzed from the waist down after a skiing accident. She also has not regained fine motor skills. The unique keyboard allows Friedman to move her hands instead of clicking with her fingers.

The keyboard was made at the maker space inside UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital. According to the hospital, it is one of the few in the country to have a hands-on fabrication lab inside. One focus of the lab, which is jointly run by clinicians and engineers, is to create solutions to unique challenges faced by patients.

“So the best part about this space is that it’s nurse-run. So I run it in correlation with Nick Dodds, who’s our fabrication fellow. He has an engineering background and I have a clinical background so together challenges that would come in the door, ideas that come in the door, I can kind of have the background from a clinical perspective where he would have kind of the biomechanical engineering,” Rose Hedges, the Nursing Research and Innovation Coordinator at St. Luke’s, said.

Nick Dodds, the fabrication fellow, said the idea for the keyboard came from Friedman’s caregivers about six weeks ago. From there, the lab designed a prototype using PVC pipes, and then created the end product with a 3D printer.

Friedman said learning to use the keyboard is one part of adapting to her new life.

“It looks like me being in a wheelchair, learning how to be more independent each day, be stronger each day. Live a very different life from what I had, but trying to figure out life with what I have,” Friedman said.

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